Motsamai Mpho, former treason trialist and veteran of resistance politics, died at the age of 91 at Princes Marina Hospital, his family confirmed on Wednesday. Born in 1921, Mpho was a self-made politician who in 1956 was among the first group of 67 Treason Trial detainees discharged together with Chief Albert Lithuli, according to available records.
Both his granddaughter Kenaleone Mpho and nephew Moaparankwe Mpho confirmed that the veteran politician died this week at Princes Marina Hospital in Gaborone following an operation on the appendix. At 91, he had transformed his own unusual impoverished childhood to become one of the most respected veteran politicians who recently received Order of Companion of OR Tambo in Silver award from South Africa.
“He was caring, he was patient,” said a distraught Kenaleone over the phone. Mpho’s health deteriorated on the 17th of October when he was rushed to Maun Primary Hospital. Four days later, he was transferred to Princes Marina Hospital where he underwent an operation on the appendix. Motsamai is one of the founding fathers of the nation, according to historian, Dr. Jeff Ramsay.
He was a founder of the country’s first political party, the then Bechuanaland People’s Party (BPP). The other founding members included Klaas Motshidisi, Kgalemang Motsete and Philip Matante. Owing to internal strife within the BPP, Mpho left to form the Botswana Independence Party (BIP). Dr. Ramsay remembers that Mpho and Ketumile Masire were among the first commoners to attend Tiger Kloof in South Africa.
He was viewed as a courageous politician, who once attempted to liberate Thabo Mbeki and Fish Keitseng from oppressive Apartheid government when they travelled from Rhodesia to South Africa via Botswana in 1962.
“Motsamai organised people in Palapye to stop the train and liberated Mbeki and Fish. This goes to show courage and how much he was willing to fight against oppression,” says Dr. Ramsay.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) spokesperson, Taolo Lucas said Mpho played a key role in shaping Botswana politics. “Even at an advanced age, he remained alive to current politics. He had depth of experience and was so useful to the party,” said Lucas.
Mpho was regarded as an elder in the BCP and was instrumental in the merger between the BCP and the former Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM). His three children and 15 grandchildren survive him. Funeral arrangements had not been arranged at press time.